Several months ago I began the experiment of growing potatoes in recycled tires. It seemed like a good, logical idea. Growing potatoes requires occasional mounding of the soil as the green stalks grow, resulting in more potatoes. So why not do this in a very linear way while re-using old tires at the same time?
I should put it out there that I have never grown potatoes before. They seemed like a lot of work and a lot of space for something that I couldn’t imagine tasting that much differently than what I buy at the store. In that last point, I have been proven wrong. Homegrown potatoes are delightful. They have a rich, buttery , earthy flavor that makes you realize the ones from the commercial stores have no flavor, just texture. If I could to not grown my own potatoes next year, I will surely be buying some from local farms instead.
There were five different varieties of potatoes that I planted this past Spring, with two stacks of tires for each variety. The ten tire stacks, which got only about three tires high, made a nice quirky division in the garden between the patio and the food forest. I only went three tire stacks high mostly out of laziness. Once June and July rolled around, my time was so focused on other areas that I didn’t tend the stacks as well with adding more soil and tires as those green stalks grew up. I also didn’t make a point of watering the stacks. I had them filled with mulch (straw, dirt, wood chips), so I just assumed water from the occasional rains would hold longer in there.
All that said about my mild neglect, my harvest was quite lackluster. Here is my diligent recording of the average harvest (between the two stacks for each variety) from planting 2-3 seed potatoes per tire stack:
- Yukon Golds: 3 1/2-4 1/2 pound yield
- All Blue: 1 1/2 – 2 pound yield
- Russet: 4-5 pound yield
- Red La Soda: 4 pound yield
- Russian Fingerling: 1/2 pound yield
The Russets were the most prolific, and the fingerlings the least. The fingerling potatoes were also the ones I was most excited about so I was sad to see such a scrawny bounty. But perhaps they are generally less heavy on yields than Russets anyways? Although I have never grown potatoes before, I would guess this is a pretty pathetic harvest so I can’t say I really recommend growing potatoes in tires.
If I could do it over again, it would be worth a more scientific experiment. Perhaps growing half in mounds and the other half in tires, then comparing the harvest. Maybe I should have watered, but I thought the mulch material I had in the stacks would help keep water in. I also advise against using straw. My tire stacks used straw, wood chips and dirt in different places, but the straw seemed to have a higher likelihood of rot.
Our basement still has several bags of potatoes, which is exciting since I probably only spent a couple bucks on all the potato seeds. We used some in a dinner this weekend and they tasted fabulous. The flowers this summer were lovely in the garden. But all that said, they did take up a lot of room and maybe those tires would work better for planting heat-loving veggies instead, like peppers and eggplants.
I would love to hear your experiences with different growing methods as well and thanks for being patient while I found the motivation to harvest these taters! Perhaps next summer there will be more in store.